An official's mistake gave Stephanie Herbst some uneasy moments at the 65th NCAA Track and Field Championships tonight. In the end, however, the error helped the Wisconsin sophomore smash the collegiate record in the women's 10,000 meters with a time of 32 minutes 32.75 seconds.
Herbst was in a tight three-woman duel for most of the distance with New Zealander Chris McMiken of Oklahoma State and Ellen Reynolds of Duke. When the lap counter told her three 400-meter circuits remained, Herbst sprinted away from her two foes. Then, when she reached the counter again, she heard "Three to go" -- again.
"I was scared to death," Herbst said. "I figured I'd better just keep on going. It was a psychological thing, in the back of my head."
Since she won breezing, anyway, Herbst was asked if the mistake helped her to a faster time and she said, "Sure, but it was scary making my move a lap early. To get it over with was a big relief."
Herbst, from Chaska, Minn., sliced 3 1/2 seconds off the collegiate record set in April by Kathy Ormsby of North Carolina State and 11 seconds from the 1984 meet standard of Oregon's Kathy Hayes.
The women's 10,000 was the only final on the first day, but it did not account for the only official error. After 16 women had taken three long jumps apiece to qualify 12 for Friday's final, it was discovered some attempts had been measured erroneously and all 16 were moved into the final.
That provided a second chance for Sonja Fridy of Virginia, who ranked 15th. Teresa Allen and Brenda Bailey, both of Howard, had been among the top 12.
There were some shocking surprises in qualifying and a severe electrical storm forced a postponement in hammer throw trials until Thursday.
First to bite the wet track was Schowonda Williams of Louisiana State, the favorite in the women's 400-meter hurdles. Leading her heat over the 10th and last hurdle, Williams suddenly stumbled, staggered for two steps and fell. By the time she rose and crossed the finish line, she was next to last and a nonqualifier for Friday's final.
Sherri Howard of Cal State-Los Angeles, first in the 400 and third in the 200 a year ago, was next to go out. Howard was bounced from the 200 trials by a false start. The NCAA disqualifies runners after one false start.
Texas, the favorite in the women's team race, lost some potential points when Mary Bolden (23.55) did not advance in the 200. Terri Dendy of George Mason (23.76) also failed to qualify for Friday's final. Wendy Vereen of Morgan State advanced in 23.12.
In most NCAA events, only the heat winners are assured of a final berth, with the rest of the field determined on time. So Ibrahim Okash of George Mason, one of the top 800-meter contenders, was knocked out despite placing third in one of three heats. Okash was boxed and ran a slow time of 1:48.04. Only the heat winner, Freddie Williams of Abilene Christian, advanced to Friday's final, with four runners moving up from each of the other two heats.
Danny Harris of Iowa State, bidding for a third straight title in the 400 hurdles, had the fastest qualifying time of 49.06. Knocked out of competition were Patrick Mann of Georgetown (51.00) and Harold Morton of George Mason (51.25).
Kenyans Julius Korir of Washington State (8:31.15) and Patrick Sang of Texas (8:32.22) led the two steeplechase heats. Dan Foley of Maryland (9:12.18) was eliminated.
In a swift 200-meter confrontation, Harvey McSwain of North Carolina State nipped Roy Martin of Southern Methodist in 20.43, with both earning berths in Friday's final. Luis Morales of Southern California and Oxon Hill (Md.) High, was ousted in 21.00.
Karol Davidson of Texas led the women's 800 qualifiers in 2:02.04. Alisa Harvey of Tennessee and Jefferson High (Fairfax, Va.) advanced in 2:03.44.
Regina Cavanaugh of Rice, defending shot put champion, set a meet record of 57-6 1/2 in qualifying.